KCAW Raven Radio’s “The Library Show feat. Rita Banerjee” airs May 7, 2023 – 10:30 am AKDT

During the the Tongass Mist Writing Retreat (April 12-16, 2023) in Sitka, Alaska, Visiting Rita Banerjee sat down with Brooke Shafer, one of the hosts of “The Library Show” on Raven Radio (KCAW, 104.7 FM Sitka, Alaska). Brooke Shafer asked Rita Banerjee about her favorite books, current reads, what drew her to writing, what it’s like to teach creative writing, and the memoir and manifesto on female cool that she currently working on. Banerjee also got a chance to read from “Cool as Kin,” a new chapter from her memoir on-air.

KCAW Raven Radio will be airing Brooke Shafer’s interview and conversation with Rita Banerjee on Sunday, May 7, 10:30 am Alaska Time (2:30 pm EDT, 11:30 am PDT). And you can listen to “The Library Show” broadcast live (or download it) on May 7 on Raven Radio at:


The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Summer in Paris Retreat feat. Rita Banerjee & Diana Norma Szokolyai – July 19-25, 2023


The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Paris Writing Retreat will take place from July 19-25, 2023.  Situated in heart of Paris’ Montparnasse neighborhood, amongst the fresh and popular open air markets and charming boutiques, the hotel stay is full of Parisian charm, and retreat activities will include craft of writing seminars and creative writing workshops, literary tours of Paris. If you’re serious about writing and want to soak in some exquisite French culture this summer, join our retreat in Paris!  The faculty includes award-winning writers Diana Norma Szokolyai and Rita Banerjee.  Genres include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, and hybrid. Multilingual submissions are welcome. Partial scholarships for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, writers who are students, writers who are parents, and writers who are educators are available. Apply for scholarships by May 15, 2023. And if you’d like to join us in Paris, France, please apply online at cww.submittable.com by June 1, 2023. More info: cww.nyc 

Warren Wilson College Announces Dr. Rita Banerjee as the Next Director of the MFA Program for Writers

Following an extensive and highly competitive national search, Warren Wilson College has announced the appointment of Dr. Rita Banerjee as the next director of the MFA Program for Writers and assistant professor of creative writing.

The MFA Program for Writers is a rigorous and highly-selective four-semester graduate program that is consistently ranked as one of the most prestigious low-residency MFA in creative writing programs in the country. Faculty and alumni include Nobel, Pulitzer, and National Book Award winners, national and state poet laureates, and NEA, Guggenheim, Fulbright, and MacArthur fellows.

Banerjee brings extensive experience to the position. She is an award-winning writer herself, and has previously served as director of MFA programs at two other schools. 

“I am honored to join Warren Wilson as the new director of the MFA Program for Writers, which has such an illustrious history and has launched the careers of so many talented writers worldwide, and which offers a vibrant, world-class education focused on artistry, rigor, community, and the possibilities of the imagination,” Banerjee said.

Banerjee holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. She has served as director of MFA programs at Vermont College of Fine Arts and Long Island University. She is co-founder and executive creative director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, which was founded at Harvard University, an editor-at-large of the “South Asian Avant-Garde,” and she served as interim executive director of Kundiman, a national organization dedicated to the creation and cultivation of Asian American creative writing. 

Her extensive teaching experience spans creative writing (including poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction), literature, publishing, and foreign languages in graduate, undergraduate, and community workshop settings in the U.S. and abroad. 

“Dr. Banerjee’s extensive scholarly and creative accomplishments, combined with her demonstrated administrative expertise make her a perfect fit for this world-class, nationally ranked program,” said Dr. Jay Roberts, provost and dean of the faculty at Warren Wilson. “I am confident the MFA Program for Writers is in good hands, and we are excited to watch its continued development under her leadership.”

Banerjee is the author of the poetry collections “Echo in Four Beats,” which was named one of Book Riot’s “Must-Read Poetic Voices of Split This Rock 2018,” and “Cracklers at Night.” She is also editor of “CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing” and author of the novella “A Night with Kali.” She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto “Merchants of Cool: How Female Cool Could Not Be Sold,” and one of the opening chapters of this new memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 “Best American Essays.”

“Rita is an accomplished writer-scholar, a committed teacher and mentor, and an expert administrator,” said Christie Kitano, a MFA poetry faculty member who served on the search committee. “The MFA is a storied program with deeply held roots and traditions, so it was difficult to imagine finding a new director who would maintain the program’s core values while simultaneously envisioning new possibilities. Luckily, Rita immediately stood out as uniquely skilled and prepared to take on this responsibility. She commands the right combination of expertise, imagination, and vision to lead the program into the future.”

Banerjee’s appointment follows the retirement of the current director of the MFA Program for Writers Debra Allbery, who has held the position for the past 14 years. Allbery will continue serving during a transitional time, when she will mentor Banerjee leading toward the June 2023 residency when Banerjee’s directorship will begin. 

“We are proud to welcome Rita into our community and look forward to working with her,” said Dr. Paula Garrett, the chair of the English department at Warren Wilson College. “We are also  grateful for Deb Allbery’s continued leadership, and so appreciate her mentoring of Rita in this transitional time. We anticipate a great future for the MFA, both continuing its great traditions and welcoming changes as the field itself is changing.”

Read more about Dr. Rita Banerjee at Warren Wilson here.
Read more about Warren Wilson’s acclaimed MFA Program for Writers here.

Tongass Mist Writing Retreat featuring Visiting Writer Rita Banerjee in Sitka, Alaska (April 13-16, 2023)

The Tongass Mist Writing Retreat featuring Visiting Writer Rita Banerjee will take place at the Tongass Fine Arts Campus in Sitka, Alaska from April 12-16, 2023. Applications are now open through March 19, 2023 at tongassmist.com.

Tongass Mist Writing is owned and operated by Ruth Underhill @ruth_elizabeth_underhill, a local Sitkan with a dream to see more writers experience and cherish the mists of the Tongass National Forest with the knock of raven call and sound of rocks rolling up the shores of this beautiful Tlingit Aáni land where she lives as a very lucky guest. Ruth shapes retreats and writing resources to allow #artists to carry its wild and beauty into their diverse and empowered writing. The retreat includes lodging on an oceanfront campus, daily meals, wilderness excursions, six literary salons, fireside readings, a wildlife cruise, and sauna. Tongass Mist welcomes its second visiting writer to Sitka in April 2023. Rita Banerjee will join the Sitka Fine Arts Campus April 12-16th for a four day retreat featuring wilderness excursions, generative writing salons, readings by a fire, literary craft talks and the incomparable experience of creating, enjoying a welcoming art community in the heart of the Tongass National Forest. Rita comes to visit us with incredible experience writing, film making, teaching, publishing and directing writing programs across the country. To apply, submit an application on the Tongass Mist Writing Retreat website by March 19, 2023 at 3 pm Alaska Standard Time.

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop Announces Writing Coaching and Editorial Services

The Cambridge Writers’ Workshop is delighted to announce that we will be offering Writing Coaching and Editorial Services for our writing students starting in early 2023! Authors who are in the development stage of their manuscript drafting or have a book manuscript ready and are looking for advice regarding book proposals, manuscript submissions, and seeking out literary agents are welcome to apply. Writers who are working in all genres including poetry, fiction, nonfiction, play or screenwriting, hybrid, and illustrated work are welcome to apply.

Here are the types of services offered by our faculty.

  • Writing Coaching
  • Manuscript Review
  • Publishing and Submission Advice
  • Developing Query Letters for Literary Agents
  • Developing Book Proposals
  • Line Editing of Manuscripts
  • One-on-One Consultations
  • Small-Group Writing Workshops
  • Manuscript Development Advice
  • One-on-One Craft Advice

Please note that most faculty charge between $125 – $150 / hour for editorial services and writing coaching.

In applying for the writing coaching services, be sure to note what kinds of services you are interested in, the scope of your project.

To apply for Writing Coaching and Editorial Services, please complete the following steps:

  1. Submit an application via cww.submittable.com
  2. Include a writing sample of 5-10 pages of prose, poetry, or hybrid work with your application
  3. In the cover letter, please note:
    • which faculty you would prefer to work with (please select from our 2023 Faculty List below)
    • a brief on-paragraph synopsis of your project and the scope of your project
    • please note any genres that you are working in or developing further
    • what kind of editorial services you are seeking and
    • a brief one-paragraph biography of yourself as a writer and creator
  4. With your application, please include two professional references (with phone, email address, and mailing address included). If possible, please include two contact references who can speak to your experience as a writer.

Our 2023 Faculty Include:

Rita Banerjee is the Executive Creative Director of the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop and editor of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing.  She is the author of the poetry collection Echo in Four Beats , which was named one of Book Riot’s “Must-Read Poetic Voices of Split This Rock 2018”, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and the poetry chapbook Cracklers at Night. She is the co-writer and co-director of Burning Down the Louvre (2023), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and she is a recipient of a Vermont Studio Center Artist’s Grant, the Tom and Laurel Nebel Fellowship, and South Asia Initiative and Tata Grants among other awards.  Her writing appears in the Academy of American PoetsPoets & Writers, PANK, Tupelo Quarterly, Nat. Brut.Vermont Public Radio, Hunger Mountain, Kweli Journal, The ScofieldThe Rumpus, Painted Bride Quarterly, Mass Poetry, Hyphen Magazine, Los Angeles Review of BooksElectric Literature, VIDA: Women in Literary Arts, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Objet d’Art, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a novel, a book on South Asian literary modernisms, and a memoir and manifesto on female cool. Her writing is represented by agent Jamie Chambliss of Folio Literary Management.

Franky Frances Cannon is a writer, editor, educator, and artist. She recently served as the Managing Director of the Sundog Poetry Center in Vermont. She has taught at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Champlain College, the Vermont Commons School, the University of Iowa, and as a visiting lecturer at Middlebury College and the University of Vermont. She has an MFA in creative writing from Iowa and a BA in poetry and printmaking from the University of Vermont. Her published books include: Walter Benjamin: Reimagined, MIT Press, The Highs and Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank, Gold Wake Press, Tropicalia, Vagabond Press, Predator/Play, Ethel Press, Uranian Fruit, Honeybee Press, Sagittaria, Bottlecap Press, and Image Burn, a self-published art book. She has worked for The Iowa Review, McSweeney’s Quarterly, The Believer, and The Lucky Peach. Her writing has been published in The New York Times, Poetry Northwest, The Iowa Review, The Green Mountain Review, Vice, Lithub, The Moscow Times, The Examined Life Journal, Gastronomica, Electric Lit, Edible magazine, Mount Island, Fourth Genre, and Vol. 1 Brooklyn. 

Kristina Marie Darling is the author of thirty-nine books, which include Stylistic Innovation, Conscious Experience, and the Self in Modernist Womens Poetry, available from Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group; Daylight Has Already Come:  Selected Poems 2014 – 2020, which was published by Black Lawrence Press; Silence in Contemporary Poetry, which will be published in hardcover by Clemson University Press in the United States and Liverpool University Press in the United Kingdom; Silent Refusal:  Essays on Contemporary Feminist Writing, newly available from Black Ocean; Angel of the North, which is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry; and X Marks the Dress: A Registry (co-written with Carol Guess), which was just launched by Persea Books in the United States.  Penguin Random House Canada has also published a Canadian edition.   An expert consultant with the U.S. Fulbright Commission, Dr. Darling’s work has also been recognized with three residencies at Yaddo, where she has held the Martha Walsh Pulver Residency for a Poet and the Howard Moss Residency in Poetry; eight residencies at the American Academy in Rome, where she has also served as an ambassador for recruitment; grants from the Elizabeth George Foundation and Harvard University’s Kittredge Fund; a Fundación Valparaíso fellowship to live and work in Spain; a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, funded by the Heinz Foundation; an artist-in-residence position at Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris; two grants from the Whiting Foundation; a Faber Residency in the Arts, Sciences, and Humanities, which she received on two separate occasions; an artist-in-residence position with the Andorran Ministry of Culture; an artist-in-residence position at the Florence School of Fine Arts; an appointment at Scuola Internazionale de Grafica in Venice; and the Dan Liberthson Prize from the Academy of American Poets, which she received on three separate occasions; among many other awards and honors.  Dr. Darling serves as Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press & Tupelo Quarterly and teaches at the American University of Rome.  Born and raised in the American Midwest, she currently divides her time between the United States, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast.  

Tim Horvath is the author of Understories (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Work of Fiction, and Circulation (sunnyoutside). His fiction has appeared in ConjunctionsAGNIHarvard Review, and many other journals, and his book reviews appear in Georgia ReviewThe Brooklyn Rail, and American Book Review. His novel-in-progress focuses on the lives of contemporary classical composers and musicians. He has taught Creative Writing in the Granada, Spain, program for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop, and in the BFA and MFA programs at New England College, including the Institute of Art and Design.

Corrine Previte is currently working as a 4th Grade Teacher in Lynn, Massachusetts. Previously, Corrine graduated from Gordon College in 2017 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in English, where she took courses in creative playwriting, literary journal, British and Irish Literature. During her time at Gordon, she not only was captain of the track team but she was also the News Editor for the college’s newspaper: The Tartan and a member of the Sigma Tau Delta English Honors Society. She has recently completed her master’s at Gordon where she studied to be a reading specialist and English as a Second Language Teacher. She also took courses in writing for publication, developing and advanced writers. Corrine Previte is an avid writer and has been since the age of 6. She has a love for children’s books and travel writing. Her favorite authors that inspire her include Patricia Polacco, Jane Brett and Elizabeth Gilbert. Previte has worked with Cambridge Writer’s Workshop since 2019. She has enjoyed the hands-on experience with editors and publishers. During this time, Previte’s children’s book manuscript is under review.

Ian Ross Singleton is author of the novel Two Big Differences. He is the Nonfiction Editor of Asymptote and has written short stories, translations, reviews, and essays which have appeared in journals such as: Saint Ann’s ReviewCafe ReviewNew MadridFiddleblack; The Los Angeles Review of Books; and Fiction Writers Review. He teaches Writing and Critical Inquiry at the University at Albany.

Natalya Sukhonos is bilingual in Russian and English and also speaks Spanish, French, and Portuguese. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Natalya is Assistant Professor at the College of Interdisciplinary Studies at Zayed University. Natalya’s poems are published by the American Journal of Poetry; Haight Ashbury Literary Journal; Saint Ann’s Review; Driftwood Press; Literary Mama; Middle Gray Magazine; Really System; Empty Sink Publishing and other journals. Her first book “Parachute” was published by Aldrich Press of Kelsay Books. “A Stranger Home” was published by Moon Pie Press in 2020. You can find out more about her work on natalyasukhonos.com.

Diana Norma Szokolyai is a writer and Executive Artistic Director of Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Her edited volume, CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, will be released by C&R Press on March 7, 2018.  She is author of the poetry collections Parallel Sparrows (honorable mention for Best Poetry Book in the 2014 Paris Book Festival) and Roses in the Snow (first runner-­up Best Poetry Book at the 2009 DIY Book Festival). She also records her poetry with musicians and has collaborated with several composers including David Krebs (US), Robert Lemay (Canada), Claudio Gabriele (Italy), Peter James (UK), Jason Haye (UK), and Sebastian Wesman (Estonia). Diana Norma is a founding member of the performing arts groups Sounds in Bloom, ChagallPAC, and The Brooklyn Soundpainting Ensemble.  Her poetry-music collaboration with Flux Without Pause, “Space Mothlight,” hit #16 on the Creative Commons Hot 100 list in 2015, and can be found in the curated WFMU Free Music Archive. Her work has been recently reviewed by The London Grip and published in VIDA: Reports from the Field, The Fiction Project, Quail Bell Magazine, Lyre Lyre, The Boston Globe, Dr. Hurley’s Snake Oil Cure, The Dudley Review and Up the Staircase QuarterlyThe Million Line Poem, The Cambridge Community Poem, and elsewhere, as well as anthologized in Our Last Walk, The Highwaymen NYC #2, Other Countries: Contemporary Poets Rewiring History, Always Wondering, and Teachers as Writers.  She is currently at work on her next book and an album of poetry & music. Diana Norma holds a M.A. in French (UCONN, La Sorbonne) and an Ed.M in Arts in Education (Harvard).

“On Writing and Publishing: A Conversation with Rita Banerjee” at the Young Women’s Society of New York City * Wednesday, September 28, 6:30 pm EST

The Young Women’s Society of New York City, founded by Sunita Singh of LIU Brooklyn, welcomes Rita Banerjee as a guest speaker to discuss “On Writing and Publishing” on Wednesday, September 28, 2022 from 6:30-7:30 pm EST on Zoom.

The Young Women’s Society of New York City space for females across NYC where they can voice their concerns, feelings, and fears. The club aims to empower young women within the community by providing opportunities to learn STEM-related skills and hear from accomplished women within various fields. Rita Banerjee will be present on writing, publishing, and academia, and how young women (both cis and trans) can flourish in such fields. To join the Zoom conversation on September 28, please email theyoungwomenssocietystaff@gmail.com.

Membership to the Young Women’s Society of New York City is open to undergraduate, graduate, and young professional students who identify as female and who live, study, and/or work in NYC. To join the community, please email theyoungwomenssocietystaff@gmail.com.

For more info, visit:

Felicia Rose Chavez and Rita Banerjee discuss The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop in Kweli Journal

Recently Rita Banerjee sat down to Felicia Rose Chavez to discuss her pedagogy-changing book The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom for Kweli Journal. Launched in December 2009, Kweli is an online literary journal that celebrates community and cultural kinships. In this shared space, you will hear the lived experience of people of color. Our many stories. Our shared histories. Our creative play with language. Here our memories are wrapped inside the music of the Muscogee, the blues songs of the South, the clipped patois of the Caribbean. We currently publish four (4) online issues each year. In the interview and podcast (produced by Tavia Gilbert), Rita Banerjee and Felicia Rose Chavez discuss new approaches to the creative writing classroom. Here is an excerpt from their interview:

Rita Banerjee:

To me, it sounds like this anti-racist workshop model is neither a call-out culture or a call-in culture, but much more curious, inquisitive, and dialogue-based. It’s questioning, but not in an interrogating style.

Felicia Rose Chavez:

It’s about “what are you trying to do, and how can we best get you there?”

Rita Banerjee:

I would love for you to talk about the way that you utilize the Liz Lerman method. Because the one that I’ve been taught the moderator has a really big role in helping navigate the conversation. But in your model, it’s the artist is the one who’s really propelling the conversation forward.

Felicia Rose Chavez:

Yeah. I go to the extreme where students are seated in a circle to workshop when it comes to formal workshop and I’m actually seated outside of the circle. So I will be in the corner of the classroom. I’m not even participating as a restraint to myself because my impulse would be to turn towards dominance and control of the classroom. I’m not immune to these impulses as an educator. It takes great work for me to step back and say, “that’s not warranted right now. Nobody cares what you think right now, let them learn from one another.” So I do advocate that the student is the one who leads the workshop. They have a timing device and they walk their fellow students through the five steps of the Liz Lerman model in which I add a kind of unspoken sixth step in which they write an artist statement to the group.

So they write a letter, and they write about their fears about the piece they write about their successes of the piece. They write things like “God guys, I am dying right now. And I don’t know what to do when I feel so vulnerable. And so here’s what I need in this moment.” They also have an opportunity to articulate a future draft, saying things like “Here’s where I want to be. Here’s what I need to get there.” They enumerate three craft-based questions. Again, we all understand what those craft terms are. So we’re all speaking to the piece and we can engage with those craft concepts on equal footing that serves as their foundation. And so they have about 30 minutes and they read the piece aloud. Everyone reads the artist statement silently. They read the piece aloud and they’re able to walk through the Liz Lerman steps beginning with “I welcome your statements of meaning” and everyone offers what was challenging and beautiful and exciting to them.

Read the full interview on Kweli Journal here.

Felicia Rose Chavez is an award-winning educator with an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is author of The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop: How to Decolonize the Creative Classroom and co-editor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 4: LatiNEXT with Willie Perdomo and Jose Olivarez. Felicia’s teaching career began in Chicago, where she served as Program Director to Young Chicago Authors and founded GirlSpeak, a feminist webzine for high school students. She went on to teach writing at the University of New Mexico, where she was distinguished as the Most Innovative Instructor of the Year, th University of Iowa, where she was distinguished as the Outstanding Instructor of the Year, and Colorado College, where she received the Theodore Roosevelt Collins Outstanding Faculty Award. Her creative scholarship earned her a Ronald E. McNair Fellowship, a University of Iowa Graduate Dean’s Fellowship, a Riley Scholar Fellowship, and a Hadley Creatives Fellowship. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, she currently serves as the Bronfman Creativity and Innovation Scholar-in-Residence at Colorado College. For more information about The Anti-Racist Writing Workshop, and to access (and add to!) a multi-genre compilation of contemporary writers of color, visit www.antiracistworkshop.com.

Rita Banerjee is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at the George Polk School of Communications at Long Island University Brooklyn. She is author of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Echo in Four Beats, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and Cracklers at Night. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA from the University of Washington, and her work appears in Hunger Mountain, PANK, Isele, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is the co-writer and co-director of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France. She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool, and one of the opening chapters of this memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays. You can follow her work at ritabanerjee.com or on Twitter @Rita_Banerjee.

Writer, performer, producer Tavia Gilbert is the acclaimed narrator of more than 700 full-cast and multi-voice audiobooks. She is a Grammy nominee, Booklist Audiobook Narrator of the Year, the recipient of dozens of Earphones Awards, and a 12-time Audie nominee and Winner of the Best Female Narrator Audie. She produces several podcasts, including eight-time award-winner Stories of Impact, and teaches at Long Island University and Vermont College of Fine Arts.

The New Jersey Film Festival & Rutgers University Cinema Studies’s Profile on Rita Banerjee

Founded in 1982 by independent filmmaker and Cinema Studies Professor Al Nigrin, the Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC draws thousands of viewers from throughout New Jersey by providing an alternative media culture. The Rutgers Film Co-op/NJMAC is dedicated to the noncommercial exhibition of independent, classic, international, and experimental films and videos. Not only do Film Co-op audiences have the opportunity to view many independently produced films, but also the added benefit of meeting with the filmmakers, actors, screenwriters and other members of production crew. As an undergraduate student at Rutgers College, New Brunswick, Rita Banerjee served as a projectionist, usher, ticket clerk, public speaker, and judge of the United States Super 8 Film Festival at the Rutgers Film Co-Op. In 2022, the Rutgers Film Co-op and Cinema Studies program have created featured profiles of their acclaimed alumnx. In the Rutgers Film Co-Op Profile on Rita Banerjee, Banerjee recalls:

“Growing up, our house was filled with popular music in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi, Curry Westerns and Golden Age Bollywood films, Bengali Art House Cinema, feminist Pakistani television serials, and recitations of Sanskrit poetry and Rabindra-sangeet whenever my extended family would get together and try to impress or outwit each other during their āḍḍā sessions.

My family gave me a peak into how multicultural, multilingual, mirthful, and messy South Asian culture across languages, religions, nations, and the diaspora could be. They also loved British comedy, sketch shows like The Carol Burnett Show, and bumbling but persistent detectives like Columbo and Inspector Jacques Clouseau. It felt like every time I came home from college to visit my parents for a weekend, there would be an image of James Bond, Sharmila Tagore, Jackie Chan, Uttam Kumar, Edie Murphy, Shah Rukh Khan, or Lucille Ball gracing their Saturday evening movie screen.

And when I began my studies at Rutgers, this picture of a larger, more complicated world was something I was seeking… It was during my first year of college that I met Professor Al Nigrin and fell in love with the NJ Film Festival and Rutgers Film Co-op. I joined the Co-op during the end of my freshman year when I took Susan Martin-Márquez’s thought-provoking and memorable World Cinema II class in which we screened films like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashōmon, Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, Ousmane Sembene’s Camp de Thiaroye, Djibril Diop Mambéty’s Touki Bouki, and Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together among many other classics of world cinema.

At the Film Co-op, I worked as a projectionist, usher, ticket clerk, public speaker, and judge of the United States Super 8 Film Festival. I started working at the Film Co-op regularly on weekends in the Fall of 2001 just as September 11th happened and affected so many students, faculty, and staff, many of whom had friends and family in New York at that time or had witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers themselves from the “safe haven” of New Jersey. While I was still a teenager then, 9/11 proved to be a pivotal moment in my artistic practice and career trajectory. It seemed to me, at that time in all my worldly wisdom, that I would waste my life if I pursued Engineering as a major and if I did not become the artist or intellectual I wanted to be while Rome was burning. Many years later, I finally wrote about what coming-of-age as a young adult during 9/11 really meant in my essay “Birth of Cool,” which went on to be a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays. This story about Rutgers, literature, my obsession with cool, and 9/11 became the opening to my new memoir and manifesto on how women keep their cool and foster a culture of female cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure post-9/11.

Some of my fondest memories at the Rutgers Film Co-op include watching Mulholland Drive with our exchange students from Japan (and my love interest at the time scolding me afterwards for showing our guests such a scandalous movie!!), and screening films like Meshes of the Afternoon, Bend It Like Beckham, Requiem for a Dream, Amélie, Kandhar, Un Chien Andalou, Potemkin, Lost in Translation, and Bowling for Columbine with our cadre of artists, filmmakers, and writers. One of the most unforgettable moments at the Rutgers Film Co-op happened when we were screening Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark. I had helped with the ticket sales that night, so I snuck into the audience with my friends to watch the film. And being such a stoic person normally, I just remember that moment in the film when Björk’s character passes the point of no-return and I felt my cheeks wet with tears that I didn’t even realize I was shedding.

That’s how meeting Al Nigrin and working at the Rutgers Film Co-op felt to me: an epiphany, a discovery, a challenging of my worldview, a dance and entrance into an exciting new imagination.

I’ve carried my memories of the Rutgers Film Co-op with me over the years. They have helped me to interrogate the world and seek new perspectives and listen to new voices. In so many ways the Rutgers Film Co-op and New Jersey Film Festival created a meeting ground and a place of conversation in New Brunswick that was bohemian, unapologetically artistic and edgy, multicultural, and cognizant of the importance of historical contexts and new world views. I learned so much about how to be an artist, a citizen of the world, how to be curious and always a little punk from Professor Al Nigrin and the Rutgers Film Co-op. And those lessons and that style and that kind of clear-eyed coolness I’ll always carry with me.”

Read the full profile on Rita Banerjee, which includes a preview of her co-written film Burning Down the Louvre (2022) on the Rutgers Cinema Studies program page here.

Adverse Abstraction Reading feat. Rita Banerjee, Bonnie Jill Emanuel, and Virginia Vasquez * May 20, 2022, 6 pm at Otto’s NYC

Adverse Abstraction will be featuring poets and writers Rita Banerjee, Bonnie Jill Emanuel, and Virginia Vasquez during their next monthly reading at Otto’s Shrunken Head on Friday, May 20 at 6 pm Eastern. The Adverse Abstraction monthly artist series is curated in New York City by writers Kristine Esser Slentz and Matthew Gahler, and you can read more about the featured authors below.

Featured Authors:

Rita Banerjee is author of CREDO: An Anthology of Manifestos and Sourcebook for Creative Writing, Echo in Four Beats, the novella “A Night with Kali” in Approaching Footsteps, and Cracklers at Night. She received her doctorate in Comparative Literature from Harvard and her MFA from the University of Washington, and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Co-Director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing program at the George Polk School of Communications at Long Island University Brooklyn. Her work appears in Hunger Mountain, Isele, Nat. Brut., Poets & Writers, Academy of American Poets, Los Angeles Review of Books, Vermont Public Radio, and elsewhere. She is the co-writer and co-director of Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, intimacy, and tribalism in the United States and in France.  She received a 2021-2022 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council for her new memoir and manifesto on female cool, and one of the opening chapters of this memoir, “Birth of Cool” was a Notable Essay in the 2020 Best American Essays.

Bonnie Jill Emanuel’s poems appear or will appear in American Poetry Review, Colorado Review, Mid-American Review, Passages North, The Night Heron Barks, SWWIM, The Laurel Review, Indolent Books Online, Ruminate, Love’s Executive Order, Midwest Review, Chiron Review,  and elsewhere. She earned a Creative Writing MFA at The City College of New York in 2020, where she was awarded the Jerome Lowell DeJur Prize in Creative Writing for her full-length thesis manuscript, and the Stark Poetry Prize in Memory of Raymond Patterson for a series of poems she wrote about Detroit. She holds a BA in Creative Writing & Foreign Languages from University of Michigan’s Residential College. Born in Detroit, she now lives in New York.

Virginia Vasquez is a cross-genre writer, multidisciplinary artist, and educator. She taught creative writing at the City College of New York, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing with a focus on experimental and hybrid poetics. In her artist statement, she explains: “As a multiracial Caribeña, I honor my racial identities, ancestry, and lineage. In my work, I evoke ancestral spirits to give voice to those forgotten and unheard, to bring the ancestors into presence — exalt their pain and sacrifice, resistance and power. My writing is ritualistic, taking on various forms and shapes to challenge perceptions, perspectives, and assumptions about history, identity, and self.” Virginia is also a certified Mental Health First Aid instructor, and has worked in mental health settings for over 6 years. She taught various workshops on mental health at 1199SEIU, and currently facilitates trainings’ for the Mentorship Training Program for Registered Apprenticeship in Healthcare at H-CAP, Inc.

Part III of Rita Banerjee’s essay “The Female Gaze” debuts in PANK Magazine

Photo still of Zowa and Ariane, a French couple from Burning Down the Louvre (2022), a documentary film about race, tribalism, and intimacy in the United States and in France.

The third and final part of Rita Banerjee’s essay, “The Female Gaze,” an excerpt from her new memoir and manifesto on how young women of color keep their cool against social, sexual, and economic pressure debuts in PANK Magazine today.

In Part 3 of “The Female Gaze,” Banerjee writes:

III. I see you seeing me

In Town Bloody Hall, Germaine Greer engages in a battle of wills and wits with Norman Mailer as he argues that men are merely passive slaves to women, who are the ones who really hold power, in The Prisoner of Sex.

            The debate takes place at NYU in 1971.

            In the film, Mailer introduces Greer as the “lady writer” from “England,” although Greer is clearly exhibiting an Australian accent and despises the term “lady” to qualify anything.

            Her fur stole drags on the floor as she responds to Mailer:

            “I turned to the function of women vis-à-vis art as we know it. And I found that it fell into two parts. That we were either low, sloppy creatures or menials, or we were goddesses, or worse of all, we were meant to be both, which meant that we broke our hearts trying to keep our aprons clean.”

            Mailer doesn’t look up, Greer doesn’t pause:

            “I turned for some information to Freud. Treating Freud’s description of the artist as an ad hoc description of the psyche of the artist in our society, and not in any way as an eternal pronouncement about what art might mean. And what Freud said, of course, has irritated many artists who’ve had the misfortune to see it: He longs to attain to honor, power, riches, fame, and the love of women but he lacks the means of achieving these gratifications.”

            Greer pronounces the words and the camera settles on Mailer’s worried face. The audience chuckles at his unease. She does not stop:

            “As an eccentric little girl who thought it might be worthwhile, after all, to be a poet, coming across these words for the first time, was a severe check. The blandness of Freud’s assumption that the artist was a man sent me back into myself to consider whether or not the proposition was reversible. Could a female artist be driven by the desire for riches, fame, and the love of men?

Read “The Female Gaze” (Part 3) on PANK Magazine here.